It has been a tough couple of weeks for future hit musical Sweatpants Wedding. Two Wednesdays ago, in an effort to acknowledge and understand the project’s imperfections, we yielded our Tropspace to a known pants hater, Mr. Patrick Benjamin. Not only did he viciously attack us, but he plagiarized the lovely and talented Sinead O’Connor (a confirmed SW fan) and in so doing impressed top Trop brass (who deny the plagiarism), convincing them to promote his—Mr. Benjamin’s—alcoholic crime fiction into half of our—Sweatpants Wedding’s—hard-earned Wednesday timeslots. Trop corporate sees this new every-other-week arrangement as “mutually beneficial” and “innovative.” We see it as sabotage, perpetrated by a liar and a cheat. But we will persevere, dear readers, for you. We will, starting with the interview below, fill your every-other-Wednesday with a heaping helping of thrills, chills, music, romance, and loose pants. And, if you ever need to peek back and jog your memory, all of Sweatpants Wedding, the meta-musical, is available on this well-organized webpage.
JAKE DE GRAZIA: What do you think of the allegations Patrick Benjamin brought against us? He accused you of being a lady stealer, and he accused Tom and me of taking advantage of you.
STEPHAN MCCORMICK: Well, I think Patrick’s frustration arises from a misunderstanding of his. I never thought she would be just mine. And I don’t mean to say I never hoped she would show me affection or give me the things I was looking for from her. But I never considered myself her only one. Because she’s special. And I don’t feel hurt if she’s with someone else, as long as she still shows me some love. See, that was the arrangement we had, the unspoken arrangement we had from the very beginning. And Patrick must have missed those signals from her, and now he’s paying the price.
JDG: That’s tough. Have you been in that position before?
JDG: What’s it like? What do you think it feels like to be Patrick right now?
JDG: He thought things were one way, and…
SM: But you know that kind of woman is only that way though.
JDG: Why do you think Patrick missed the signal? Was it obvious to you from the start that she was that way?
SM: I think it’s megalomania.
JDG: On whose part?
SM: Patrick’s. May I quote from his letter? “ALL of them want us because they’re making money off SW and my beauty… which they could not do except for the fact our genius and my natural sex appeal make us blind to the evils of show business.” My blindness to evil has nothing to do with Patrick’s sex appeal.
JDG: How well do you know Patrick?
SM: I’ve never met him.
JDG: I’ve met him twice. He wears khakis and eyeglasses. And he’s writing a detective slash revenge story. His main character is sort of a cross between Raoul Duke and Elmer Fudd: drunk, stumbling, angry, obsessed. Yeah. Poor Patrick. That’s a rough combination: megalomania plus disappointment, megalomania plus rejection. Though I guess it’s not really rejection, is it? It’s just something different than what he expected.
SM: It’s an intrinsic quality that she’s had all along. Patrick’s frustration and disappointment and sadness is a reaction to the dissonance between the woman he wanted and the woman he got. And it makes sense that he would want her entirely to herself. When she’s with somebody, things change for the better. Well, not necessarily for the better, because she’s dangerous as well, and I know a lot of men she has destroyed, men and women she has destroyed.
JDG: I imagine she’s pretty open about her history.
SM: Yeah. I mean it’s all self-evident. Just follow her around for a little while, and, in her wake, you’ll find people like Patrick or, you know, people like me.
JDG: But she has helped you as an artist, right?
SM: Well, you see, that’s the thing. My art hasn’t reached a point where I’m able to enjoy her as much as I want to, which is why I strive for better, more precise art. You see, sometimes you can manufacture something she will love and know it’ll make her spread her affection all over you. But sometimes it’s just dumb luck, and you create something for no reason at all, and suddenly it’s her favorite thing, and you are in newspapers and on websites and booking Madison Square Garden. She has that power. She is that power. She’s the muse of muses.
JDG: Do you remember what it was like when you first played her a song from Sweatpants Wedding? Was she into it from the beginning, or did it take some time for her to warm up to it?
SM: She’s warming up to it. I’d say she likes it a little. She could be liking it a lot more. But, you know, that could be because I need to make it better.
JDG: Has she given you any feedback?
SM: Sure. She gives feedback all the time. But it’s more the keep at it kind of feedback, not necessarily editorial comments.
JDG: And you feel like that’s helping you? You like getting that keep at it push from her?
SM: It’s nice to know she cares a little.
JDG: Or it means she sees opportunity in Sweatpants Wedding.
SM: Well, yeah, opportunity to embrace it. I don’t think there would be the keep at it thing if there wasn’t opportunity for her to like it more, for her to imagine it getting really good.
JDG: She sounds savvy.
SM: Oh she’s crazy savvy. Sometimes she’s a little shallow, which can be a problem. But it just takes her a little bit longer with the deeper things. And she’s made some great choices of who to be with and what to support, and some of them are very highbrow things.
JDG: That’s what you’re banking on for Sweatpants Wedding? That it’ll slowly sink in?
SM: I’m banking on that even outside Sweatpants Wedding. I’m trying to do what I need to do to gain her affection and her respect. The affection is enough for some people, and it’s enough for me right now. She could not respect me at all, and still I would find myself, my life, completely changed for the better. But I think it would be nice to have her affections and be respected by her. It’s weird. It’s like I know that she’s with all these other people. And I just want her to be with me, completely, a little bit. (Stephan laughs—a quick burst of closed-mouth exhales—and pauses.) It’s kinda weird, you know?
JDG: Yeah. It is kinda weird. But so moving on to the second part of my original question: Patrick not only feels like she’s using you, but he also….
(Stephan’s phone rings. It’s a call from another Hollywood Man, a slightly bigger Hollywood Man. The conversation begins exactly how you would expect it to begin: How was Berlin?… Cool… Awesome… [laughter, possibly fake]… Yeah… Ok… Then it becomes an all-business discussion of a bowling-themed hand sanitizer commercial. When he hangs up, Stephan suggests we climb out the window and onto the fire escape for a cigarette.)
JDG: Ok where were we?
SM: Respect? Affection? Having it all?
JDG: Right. Patrick’s letter. The thing that really bums me out about that letter—because, frankly, had he been right about her, which he wasn’t of course, but had he been right, and if she was using you, then his message to his precious man beauties, his message to artists and other talented and desirable people like yourself was a good and valuable message…
SM: Sure, it was a valuable message, but you notice he didn’t lay any critique on the music. There were just these wide-ranging, minimizing attacks that make Sweatpants Wedding seem like some sort of caricature of what it really is, like the sweatpants in the musical are Wal-Mart sweatpants. Actually, maybe they should be Wal-Mart sweatpants…
JDG: My point is that in some sense Patrick was meaning well. And I appreciate that. But. You’ve just shown that he was mistaken about you and your relationship with her. And not only that—and this is where it gets personal for me—he accused Tom and me of being the music business.
SM: That’s right. He accused you of exploiting this creation and then stealing the money from me.
JDG: So it’s important to me, right now, while we’re here, to hear what you think about that. Do you feel like we’re exploiting you? Like I’m exploiting you? Because if I am, I don’t want to do that.
SM: You know what might explain his reaction? She digs it when someone gets exploited by guys like you and Tom. It’s attractive to her. I’m attractive to her. He’s putting those things together. But he doesn’t want to be exploited just to gain her affections. He wants to gain her affection on his own terms.
JDG: Interesting. Do you have any advice for him?
JDG: Understandable. Totally understandable. And I also understand you’ve recently delivered Act Two.
SM: I have delivered Sweatpants Wedding’s Act Two.
JDG: And we’re going to run it very soon, and I figure I should give you an opportunity to tell people what it’s about.
SM: Well it opens in a gym, with the groom and the best man. The groom is pushing some weights, and the best man is there to spot him, but he’s kind of being ignored, because the groom is a big personality. He’s commanding the room. He’s like a Napoleon all to himself. And you see the best man being friendly and wanting to engage his best friend, but the groom’s so into himself, especially when he gets around weights and things like that, it’s bringing out maybe what we can call an ugly side of him. Or maybe that’s the only side of him so far: the ugly and stupid side. And the adrenaline starts pumping, and he’s working out, and he starts talking about his girl and how awesome she is, and then, suddenly, everyone in the gym joins in, and they dance behind him, so it turns into a kind of music video kind of thing. The dance sequence is just stagecraft, of course. It’s taking place in the groom’s mind, not in the gym, but it’s better for the audience to see its grandeur.
JDG: That’s all that happens in Act Two? It stays in the gym?
SM: I believe it stays in the gym.
JDG: Got it. So we’ve been talking about inspiration today, talking about a muse, and I’m wondering if it’s possible for you to pinpoint any way in which she or any other muse you might have had helped you create this second act.
(Stephan’s pause here is truly epic, especially with the breeze and the cigarette’s glowing orange tip and the lightly echoing honks and rumble from Hollywood Boulevard below. He smiles before he speaks.)
SM: She has a way of appreciating personalities like the groom.
JDG: What about him?
SM: The same thing probably that she appreciates in Patrick: the megalomania, the larger than life proclamations of manhood. She doesn’t always like those things, but I’ve seen her attracted to them before.
JDG: So you could see her getting interested in the groom?
SM: I could. Or, rather, I know people with personalities like the groom’s that she has been with and really enjoyed. She might not like the groom for certain other reasons. But, you know, maybe I can make her like everything about him. Or enough about him to show me more love.
JDG: Well, I’m excited for this. I feel like Act Two’s going to be a big step. Anything else you want to tell readers before we publish it?
SM: If you’re sensitive to cursing and sexist language, you might not want to read it.
JDG: You think she’ll be attracted to the sexist language?
SM: She has been in the past.
Jake de Grazia is Trop's Musical Theater Correspondent.
Stephan McCormick lives in Los Angeles.